US Open: Serena Williams praised by Billie Jean King in heartwarming tribute

Billie Jean King Serena Williams

A record opening crowd of roaring fans packed out the Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch Serena Williams play her final US Open last night.

The six-time champion at Flushing Meadows secured a strong first round win to mark the start of the likely last stop on her farewell tour before retirement.

Following her straight-sets win over Danka Kovinic, Williams was honoured by fellow tennis legend Billie Jean King, who reflected on the first time the two met.

King retired from competition completely in 1990 but remained active in the sport. She spearheaded Team USA at the Fed Cup — later renamed the Billie Jean King Cup — from 1995 to 1996 and 1998 to 2003.

Towards the end of her playing career, King encountered Venus and Serena when they were very young.

“We first met in April of 1988, when she was six years old and her sister was seven years old, at a tennis clinic where we had 1200 kids in Long Beach, California. I’ll never forget that day.

“I had Serena hit, and then I said, ‘Can you serve?’ She says, ‘Yeah I can serve.’

“I say, ‘Can we all see it?’, she says, ‘Okay.’

“Anyway, she serves, and I told her, ‘Don’t change a thing.’ Her serve is by far the most beautiful in the history of our sport.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 29: Serena Williams of the United States is greeted by Billie Jean King after her match against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro during the Women’s Singles First Round on Day One of the 2022 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Williams’ serve is regarded as one of the best in the game.

According to the WTA, the 40-year-old leads the way when it comes to a number of serve statistics.

Since 2008, Williams has scored a whopping 4,131 aces, more than any other player on the Tour. She also has a record of 74.7 per cent first-serve points won.

The fastest serve of her career came during the 2013 Australian Open when she hit a blistering 128.6 mph. Fast forward to the 2021 tournament and even despite her dip in form, her serve continued to be devastating to her opponents.

Williams equalled Rafael Nadal’s fastest speed of 125.5 mph during last year’s Australian Open, which was faster than more than half of the men competing at the same tournament.

Her former coach Patrick Mouratoglou described Williams’ serve as the greatest the game has ever seen.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 16: Serena Williams of the United States celebrates winning her Women’s Singles Quarterfinals match against Simona Halep of Romania during day nine of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 16, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

As well as her astonishing ability on the court, Williams has been lauded for her work off it.

King continued: “Thank you for your leadership and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, especially for women and women of colour. You’re just beginning.”

The 12-time Grand Slam winner also uploaded a photo of her alongside Williams’ “extraordinary” mother, Oracene, during the match.

Oracene helped coach her two daughters alongside ex-husband Richard up until 2003. Both parents played a huge role in managing Venus and Serena’s careers as they rapidly ascended to stardom.

Williams will face world number two Anett Kontaveit tomorrow in the second round of the US Open.

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Venus Williams and Serena Williams

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